Tag Archives: President’s Trophy

SPHL Announces Change to Playoff Format

It isn’t too often that you see an extreme change in the sport of hockey. For the most part, the game has remain untouched for many years. What does change over time is the quality of players, safety and efficiency of equipment (there was once a time when goalies didn’t wear masks and stick blades weren’t curved), but most importantly, the rules and procedures the game is played by. Whether it’s incorporating a trapezoid, bearing down on faceoff issues, or realigning conferences and divisions, fans and players alike have had to adjust to new league policies over the years. A recent change to the SPHL playoff format is starting to attract a lot of attention because it is, well, extreme.

The Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) was founded in 2004 and currently has 10 active teams. It is the most established level of professional hockey in North America beyond the ECHL. The league is home to former Collegiate and Juniors players who simply want to keep their careers alive. The league (as the title suggest) should also be credited for bringing the sport of hockey to a market that is not usually thought of. Generally speaking, hockey is not prevalent in the southern part of the United States, largely due to competition among other sports, but the SPHL has steadily changed that. They have slowly attracted more followers and fans, but a recent announcement may be the game-changing decision they need for even further success.

Yesterday, the organization announced that their teams would now be subject to a “Challenge Round” during the opening round of the SPHL Playoffs. This decision will surely turn a few heads and lead to quite a bit of speculation. Immediately see the term “Challenge Round” and wonder what it means and what the league is attempting to do. So, let’s break this down:

– The top eight teams qualify for the playoffs

– The top three teams earn the opportunity to choose their first round opponent

– The fourth-place team will square off against the remaining opponent

– All pairs will face off in a best-of-three series

– The winning teams will be re-seeded for the second round

The SPHL will forgo the typical system of seeding teams based on their regular season record and allow the top finishers in the league (1st, 2nd, and 3rd) to choose their first-round opponent (mind…blown…). I have witnessed some crazy ideas, but this one tops them all. Is it really that insane? Will it even last beyond this season? Even though it’s such a weird idea, why do I kind of like it? So many questions…

Let’s be honest with ourselves: the NHL regular season doesn’t always correlate to the NHL post season. When was the last time a Presidents’ Trophy winner also took home the Stanley Cup? *Quick Google Search* Well, it was done by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 12-13 season, but it has only occurred twice in the last 15 seasons. Teams sometimes lose the mentality that every game matters and often times only concern themselves with securing a playoff spot. A Presidents’ Trophy is always a nice pat on the back, but we all know the Stanley Cup is what matters.

The SPHL is taking a risk, trying something new, and attempting to throw a carrot on a stick that any organization will want to chase after. It’s different, but very creative. Their hope is to see improved play during the regular season, as well as higher attendance numbers during the playoffs. They really have nothing to lose. It could flop, but if it does, it’s back to the drawing board. Low risk, high reward, why wouldn’t you take a shot at it?

At this point, you have to be thinking the same thing that all hockey fans are pondering: Is there any way the NHL would actually try this? Simply put, probably not. This type of change could seriously shock the NHL fan base, potentially not in a good way. The league has competed with the NFL and NBA over viewers for years and it’s unlikely they try something that could risk their fan support. However, a current poll at NBC Sports reveals roughly 64% of voters would like to see the NHL attempt something like this. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some league officials out there are keeping an eye on this situation to see how it pans out. They won’t jump right in, but the SPHL may have created a ripple effect that could eventually impact other hockey leagues.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #74- Participation Trophies After One Game (Part II)

Jaromir Jagr signed with the Calgary Flames this week, the regular season started (though the Pittsburgh Penguins might not have been told yet that the games matter now) and former players tend to be GMs in the NHL, the Original Trio confirms. Also, we gave participation trophies without even watching the rest of the season for the second year in a row.

Listen to this week’s podcast on our Libsyn page (and/or on your favorite podcast listening app that snags our RSS Feed).

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

Numbers Game: 2017-18 Standings Projections

Yes, it’s October.

Yes, it’s too early to make a final standings projection, but I’m going to do it anyway using a pseudo-algorithm called Heart and Grit Gut Feeling 2.0 (combined with the standard Microsoft Excel forecasting formula).

Gut Feeling 2.0 is better than just using the eye test because it combines actual numbers plugged into Microsoft Excel with the complete partial bias of whatever I feel like is the right record, number of points and/or anything shown below for all 31 teams in the NHL.

But seriously, to keep this loosely based in mathematics, I’ve included a range of points that three separate models are indicating (scroll to the bottom), as well as what Gut Feeling 2.0 is telling us.

2017-2018 Projected Final Standings

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

  1. y-Boston Bruins, 101 points
  2. x-Montreal Canadiens, 99 points
  3. x-Tampa Bay Lightning, 98 points
  4. x-Toronto Maple Leafs, 95 points
  5. Ottawa Senators, 93 points
  6. Buffalo Sabres, 90 points
  7. Florida Panthers, 82 points
  8. Detroit Red Wings, 80 points

Predicting the final outcome across the Eastern Conference this year is a lot like playing the lottery– whether you pick your numbers or just do quick picks, your odds of winning are still far, far less than getting struck by lightning twice.

In the Atlantic Division, the Boston Bruins barely beat out the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning for the regular season division title with 101 points over Montreal’s 99 points and Tampa’s 98 points based on the Gut Feeling 2.0 model. Of course, seeding in the Stanley Cup Playoffs more often than not means nothing. Just like winning the President’s Trophy doesn’t mean much unless you win the Cup.

Given the parity of the Atlantic Division teams, it wouldn’t be surprising to see any of the top-four teams in this model switch places or grab the division crown. Based on expected final standings point-ranges alone, Tampa looks to rebound with ease, while Montreal maintains status quo.

It’s a bit of a surprise, but the Ottawa Senators sit just on the outside looking in, though logic says otherwise. For one team to improve in the division (say, Tampa for example, or the Buffalo Sabres with a healthy, full-season of Jack Eichel), another team must lose. Five points in the final standings is the only difference between 2017-2018 and 2016-2017 for the Sens and ultimately it costs them a postseason appearance.

But if any major injuries occur to teams ahead of the Senators or Sabres, then expect either Ottawa or Buffalo to be ready to take their place.

When it comes to 2018 Stanley Cup Playoff success, you might want to consider cashing in on the Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs to at least make it to the Second Round.

Metropolitan Division

  1. z-Pittsburgh Penguins, 107 points
  2. x-Washington Capitals, 106 points
  3. x-New York Rangers, 103 points
  4. x-Columbus Blue Jackets, 102 points
  5. New York Islanders, 92 points
  6. Carolina Hurricanes, 92 points
  7. Philadelphia Flyers, 91 points
  8. New Jersey Devils, 84 points

The 2017-2018 final standings in the Metropolitan Division look similar to the 2016-2017 final standings in the Metropolitan Division. This is no accident. The top teams, Pittsburgh, Washington and the New York Rangers, remain dominant in their regular season play. Even the Columbus Blue Jackets, despite a six-point setback from their franchise best 50-win, 108-point season last year, remain a competitive team that should cross the 100-point plateau for two-seasons in a row under John Tortorella’s guise.

Whereas the Washington Capitals do not clinch the President’s Trophy in the 2017-2018 season and instead falter by 12 points compared to last season, the Carolina Hurricanes show improvement in their money-puck roster mentality, but ultimately the giants of the Metropolitan Divsion (the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, to be specific) prove too much for them to handle this season, though a 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs run seems imminent.

Somehow the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers remain stagnant this season, but the New Jersey Devils make the largest leap in points (from 70 points in ’16-’17 to 84 points in ’17-’18) as the rest of the division evens out.

Look for Pittsburgh to advance to the Second Round and yet another entertaining Rangers-Capitals matchup in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Western Conference

Central Division

  1. y-Chicago Blackhawks, 102 points
  2. x-St. Louis Blues, 101 points
  3. x-Nashville Predators, 97 points
  4. x-Dallas Stars, 96 points
  5. x-Minnesota Wild, 95 points
  6. Winnipeg Jets, 87 points
  7. Colorado Avalanche, 82 points

Look, the Dallas Stars have tremendous talent on their expected first line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov, but even with Ben Bishop as their starting goaltender the Stars aren’t the best team in the Central Division.

Instead, the annual “how do they keep doing this all the time? oh, right, they have Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford still” Chicago Blackhawks will just come out on top of the St. Louis Blues who look to improve from last season with a reinforced offense (hello, Brayden Schenn) and more experience on the blue line.

The Nashville Predators, in all their glory with four incredibly deep forward lines, the best defense (on paper) and an elite starting goalie in Pekka Rinne, surprisingly fall short of winning the division coming off of their 2017 Stanley Cup Final run. Nashville will be in better playoff position heading into the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, given they won’t be the last team to clinch in the Western Conference, and they should be destined for another Western Conference Finals run, at least.

The Minnesota Wild are the winners of the consolation “hey the other division didn’t have four-quality playoff teams” prize and will clinch the second Western Conference wild card spot with 95 points in 2017-18– one season removed from a 49-25-8 record and 106 point, 2nd place finish in the Central Division.

Finally, the Colorado Avalanche couldn’t possibly have a season worse than they did last season, though they’re still poised to finish behind the Winnipeg Jets for last place in the division.

Pacific Division

  1. p-Edmonton Oilers, 112 points
  2. x-Anaheim Ducks, 109 points
  3. x-San Jose Sharks, 99 points
  4. Los Angeles Kings, 92 points
  5. Calgary Flames, 85 points
  6. Vancouver Canucks, 83 points
  7. Arizona Coyotes, 78 points
  8. Vegas Golden Knights, 72 points

Gut Feeling 2.0 never lies and the numbers don’t lie either. The Edmonton Oilers will be the top team in the Pacific Division when all is said and done this season. Better yet, the Oilers will be this season’s President’s Trophy winners– something that hasn’t happened since the days of some guy wearing a jersey with the number “99” on the back of it skated around the ice.

Other than Edmonton overtaking the Anaheim Ducks for first overall, there are virtually no changes in the Pacific Division standings. San Jose will knock at the door of a 100-point season for the third season in a row, only to fall a point short (for the second season in a row).

While Los Angeles Kings fans may be disappointed this season, if anything, missing the playoffs for one more season should give them enough time to develop and recover from their offseason roster moves while GM Rob Blake figures out the reins and plans the path back to Stanley Cup glory.

Things are coming together for the Arizona Coyotes. They won’t be a bad team; they’re just a victim of circumstance. Unfortunately, that circumstance dictates that it’s going to take one more season for the chemistry to work out as general manager, John Chayka, addresses the growing depth on offense (both in prospect development and with the addition of Derek Stepan this offseason), while building a stable core of defensemen and capable young goalies in Antti Raanta and Louis Domingue.

Meanwhile the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames go through their own growing pains for another season.

Luckily for the Vegas Golden Knights, there’s no pressure to play better than last season, mostly because this is their inaugural season, so it can’t be worse than before!

Look for Edmonton to make noise in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, going as deep as the Western Conference Finals– at least. Likewise, the Sharks seem ready for a better fight in the postseason than last season.

Plausible ranges in points based on three separate models (math done in Microsoft Excel alone– no Gut Feeling 2.0 added) for the 2017-2018 season:

Atlantic Division

Boston Bruins (94-101), Buffalo Sabres (67-84), Detroit Red Wings (86-101), Florida Panthers (84-92), Montreal Canadiens (93-99), Ottawa Senators (91-92), Tampa Bay Lightning (89-98), Toronto Maple Leafs (80-90)

Metropolitan Division

Carolina Hurricanes (81-87), Columbus Blue Jackets (84-92), New Jersey Devils (77-92), New York Islanders (84-97), New York Rangers (98-103), Philadelphia Flyers (90-92), Pittsburgh Penguins (105-108), Washington Capitals (102-119)

Central Division

Chicago Blackhawks (100-107), Colorado Avalanche (65-84), Dallas Stars (92-94), Minnesota Wild (93-97), Nashville Predators (94-97), St. Louis Blues (97-106), Winnipeg Jets (83-87)

Pacific Division

Anaheim Ducks (101-109), Arizona Coyotes (74-83), Calgary Flames (85-90), Edmonton Oilers (74-87), Los Angeles Kings (90-96), San Jose Sharks (99-104), Vancouver Canucks (72-95), Vegas Golden Knights (69-75)

March 5- Day 137- Sharks live in the Wild, not pools

For the second day in a row, somebody else has had to take the Game of the Day duties, since Connor Keith is out of town. Here goes nothing.

Sundays are perfect for sitting and watching hockey all day and if you don’t have anything to do from mid-afternoon through the rest of the night, then today’s schedule is just for you.

Sunday’s action begins in Calgary, Alberta as the New York Islanders pay their annual visit to the Calgary Flames at 4 p.m. Buffalo at Pittsburgh (NHLN/ROOT/MSG-B) kicks off at 5 p.m. As things get underway at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, newly acquired defenseman Kyle Quincey and the Columbus Blue Jackets face off against now former Blue Jacket defenseman Dalton Prout and the New Jersey Devils in New Jersey.

An hour later the Pacific Division leading San Jose Sharks visit the 2nd place in the Central Division Minnesota Wild. At 8 p.m. the Vancouver Canucks face former teammate Ryan Kesler and the Anaheim Ducks in southern California as the St. Louis Blues square off against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on NBCSN.

Half an hour later, the evening’s final game kicks off in Glendale, Arizona with the Carolina Hurricanes and the Arizona Coyotes. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Buffalo at Pittsburgh: In a rematch of the 2008 Winter Classic, the Sabres and head coach Dan Bylsma pay a visit to Bylsma’s former club as Buffalo looks to climb from being five points out of a wild card spot in the Atlantic Division.
  • Columbus at New Jersey: Kyle Quincey and Dalton Prout were traded for each other, so which team made the better move? Obviously we’ll find out after whoever wins this game.
  • San Jose at Minnesota: Two division leaders in the Western Conference do battle as the Wild look to compete with the Washington Capitals in this season’s President’s Trophy race. Okay, fine, Minnesota was on top of the Central Division until last night.
  • St. Louis at Colorado: Some professional team from St. Louis is playing some bantam team from Colorado (only kidding). Honestly, I’m just throwing this one on here in case your team’s not playing tonight and you want to watch out of market hockey on NBCSN.

Since I was informed I would be writing today’s Game of the Day matchup preview, the Minnesota Wild were on top of the Central Division as the San Jose Sharks continued to dominate the Pacific Division and everything seemed to be perfectly aligning for my Daily Matchup debut– that is until the Chicago Blackhawks decided to ruin the fun, surpassing the Wild for 1st in the Central Division with their 5-3 victory over the Nashville Predators Saturday night.

However! First place is still on the line for both teams in the San Jose Sharks at Minnesota Wild matchup (technically). Minnesota can reclaim the Central Division lead with a win at home and San Jose can do everything to keep the Wild out of first place in the Central while putting more separation between themselves and the Edmonton Oilers for first in the Pacific Division.

Stay with me here.

UnknownThe Sharks enter Xcel Energy Center on a three game winning streak with a 38-18-7 record through 63 games played (good enough for 83 points on the year), as the Wild enter Sunday night coming off of a 1-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets and a 41-15-6 record after 62 games played and 88 points on the season.

Despite losing in the Stanley Cup Final last year, San Jose is still a hot team on a run, similar to how the Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to shrug off their 2015 Stanley Cup Final loss to the Blackhawks. The Sharks aren’t in the hunt for the President’s Trophy– but the Wild are, more on that in a second– yet they’re quietly peaking at the right time.

Though quietly might not be the right term.

Winners of four out of their last five games, in which they’ve outscored their opponents 15-6 in that span, San Jose is witnessing quite the team effort in the midst of a Hart Trophy worthy season from defenseman Brent Burns (27-40-67 totals in 63 games). Only Sharks captain Joe Pavelski ranks in the top-50 in scoring in the NHL tied for 21st in the league with 55 points alongside Auston Matthews (TOR), Alex Ovechkin (WSH), Leon Draisaitl (EDM) and Victor Hedman (TB).

Despite trailing off in goals this season, Joe Thornton’s 35 assists contribute to the overall +29 goal differential for the team in teal.

Martin Jones (30-15-6 on the season in 52 GP) has stood tall in goal for the second straight year, notching 30 wins thus far (tied for 5th in the league with Boston’s Tuukka Rask). Jones’s .917 save percentage ranks 17th (tied with Florida’s Roberto Luongo) among active goalies with at least 25 games played this season, as his 2.28 goals against average is good enough to be tied for 9th in the league with Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray (same parameters as before, active goalies with at least 25 games played).

Unknown-2Minnesota enters Sunday with a 41-15-6 record through 62 games played (good enough for 88 points) and is 3-2-0 in their last five games, having outscored their opponents 19-17 during that time.

Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau has led his team within reach of the President’s Trophy as the team with the best record in the league at the end of the regular season, trailing one point behind the Blackhawks with three games in hand and seven points behind the Washington Capitals with two games in hand.

The State of Hockey’s leading scorer, center Mikael Granlund, ranks 12th in the league with 21-38-59 totals in 62 games played. Mikko Koivu (48 points), Nino Niederreiter (46 points) and Eric Staal (46 points) are also in the top-50 scorers in the league among active skaters.

Depth scoring has been a strong suit of an otherwise solely superstar-less driven scoring team as the Wild have racked up a +61 goal differential. Devan Dubnyk (34-12-3 on the season in 49 GP) ranks 1st in the league in save percentage with a .933 and 2nd in GAA with a 2.03 among active goalies with at least 25 games played this season. Dubnyk’s underrated play in net is sure to land him a Vezina Trophy this season.

The Sharks are 18-11-3 on the road, including their most recent 4-1 win in Vancouver against the Canucks on February 25th. Meanwhile, the Wild are 22-8-1 on home ice, including their 5-4 victory in overtime against the Los Angeles Kings on February 27th.

Minnesota topped San Jose in their previous meeting by a score of 5-4 on January 5th. The two teams will do battle once again on March 21st in what could be a season series tiebreaker.

Both teams are on a tear on offense in the last couple of weeks, however, Sunday night could be a different story with Dubnyk and Jones in net (so long as they’re the starters). Additionally, the Sharks have a slight edge in defense, having allowed one fewer goal than the Wild this season (147 goals against for SJ, compared to 148 GA for MIN).

I don’t know what the odds in Vegas are saying, but my money’s on San Jose pulling off a win with a slim margin of victory over Minnesota. The Wild beat the Sharks on road ice in January, so it’s only fair that San Jose wins one in Minnesota, right?

Hockey Birthday

Milt Schmidt (1918- January 4, 2017)– The Ultimate Bruin played all of his career (1936-1955) with Boston, coached in Boston (1954-1966) and was even the general manager (1967-1972) for the Bruins, winning two Stanley Cups as a player in 1939 and 1941, as well as two Stanley Cups as a GM in 1970 and 1972 for a total of four Cups in his life in hockey. Schmidt also coached the Washington Capitals in their first couple of seasons in existence (1974-1976), though they missed the playoffs both years.Hockey Birthday

Schmidt helped find Bobby Orr and pulled off the blockbuster trade of Pit Martin, Gilles Marotte and Jack Norris for Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield from the Chicago Black Hawks as a general manager and took three years off from his playing career (in its prime!) from 1942-1945 to serve in World War II for the Royal Canadian Air Force alongside his Kraut Line teammates Woody Dumart and Bobby Bauer.

Sadly, the Kitchner, Ontario native passed away in January at 98-years-old as the last member of the inaugural (1936-1937) American Hockey League (AHL) season.

He passed on the reigns of the oldest living former NHL player to John “Chick” Webster, 96, who made his NHL debut in the 1949-1950 season with the New York Rangers, appearing in 14 games and racking up four penalty minutes in his short NHL career.

Other Birthdays

Bill Thoms (1910-1964), Harry Pidhirny (1928-2010), Ken Yackel (1932-1991), Dale Anderson (1932-2015), Pat Hannigan (1936-2007), Bob Richer (1951-), Paul Gardner (1956-), Tim Friday (1961-), Anatoli Semenov (1962-), Bob Halkidis (1966-), Matt DelGuidice (1967-), Shjon Podein (1968-), Bryan Berard (1977-), Paul Martin (1981-), Barret Jackman (1981-), Michel Ouellet (1982-)


Saturday night’s DTFR Game of the Day matchup between the host New York Rangers and visiting Montreal Canadiens witnessed a 4-1 victory for the Habs on road ice as Montreal improved to 6-2-0 in the Claude Julien (Part Deux).

Unknown-1Carey Price made 26 saves on 27 shots faced en route to picking up the win at Madison Square Garden, while Henrik Lundqvist stopped 31 shots against on 35 shots faced in the loss.

Shea Weber opened the scoring for the Canadiens at 12:51 of the first period for his fifteenth goal of the season. Max Pacioretty (26) and Steve Ott (4) picked up assists on Weber’s goal. Montreal went into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead in what looked like it would be a goalie battle after all (as Colby wrote about yesterday), as Lundqvist made 10 saves on 11 shots faced and Price turned aside all six shots from the Rangers in the first period.

Despite trailing in shots on goal by five in the first period, New York only trailed in SOG 14-10 in the 2nd period and led in the category 11-10 in the 3rd period.

Artturi Lehkonen (12) scored what would become the game winning goal 8:48 into the 2nd period on a one-timer from one knee on a pass from Phillip Danault (21). Pacioretty (27) picked up the seconday assist.

The Canadiens went up 3-0 nearly ten minutes later in the 2nd period on a goal from Andrew Shaw (10). Shaw’s wraparound goal was assisted by Alex Galchenyuk (21) and Andrei Markov (24).

The lone goal from the Rangers came on a shot from Chris Kreider who notched his 24th goal of the season. Derek Stepan (32) and Mats Zuccarello (33) assisted on Kreider’s goal at 1:44 of the 3rd period. New York cut the lead to two goals, but could not muster enough to do anything further.

New addition to the lineup for Montreal, defenseman Jordie Benn fired home his 3rd goal of the season (and first as a Hab) at 6:58 of the 3rd period. Nathan Beaulieu (21) and Galchenyuk (22) assisted on Benn’s goal.

For more stats on Daily Matchup records, wait for Connor to get back (though I’m having a lot of fun writing this, maybe I’ll steal it from him more often).

 

2017 NHL Trade Deadline Preview: Metropolitan Division

Washington Capitals Logo1. Washington Capitals– 39-12-7 (85 points, 58 GP)

Don’t let the sluggish return from their bye week fool you, the Washington Capitals are the league’s best team, as is customary in the regular season. The competition for this year’s President’s Trophy remains fierce between the Minnesota Wild, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington, but the Capitals will more than likely pull away with yet another President’s Trophy, unless they want to let the Wild take it this year and deal with the President’s Trophy curse in the playoffs.

Washington is tight on the salary cap as they approach the trade deadline, though it would be unwise to unload salary at this point, with plenty of pending free agents to re-sign, as well as the expansion draft in June. If anything, the Capitals could make a move to acquire some depth or replenish some draft picks, should they decide it’s time to do a little restocking of prospects in Hershey.

Potential assets to trade: F Daniel Winnik, D Brooks Orpik

Potential assets to acquire: F Radim Vrbata (ARI), D Joe Morrow (BOS), D Taylor Fedun (BUF), F Jarome Iginla (COL), D Johnny Oduya (DAL), F Thomas Vanek (DET), D Nick Jensen (DET), D Adam Pardy (NSH), D Yannick Weber (NSH), F Patrik Berglund (STL), F Scottie Upshall (STL), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL)

pittsburgh_penguins_logo2. Pittsburgh Penguins– 36-14-8 (80 points, 58 GP)

The defending Stanley Cup champions are right where they want to be this time of year. The Pittsburgh Penguins are well on their way to returning to the playoffs comfortably with much of the roster from last season still intact. Of course, there’s always the pressing question of when will they trade Marc-Andre Fleury?

With the Vegas Golden Knights joining the league and the expansion draft coming up in June, the Penguins are bound to lose an exceptional player. It could be one of their goaltenders– Matt Murray, since Fleury would have to automatically be protected– or Pittsburgh could save their future in goal by moving Fleury ahead of time. Plenty of teams are in the market for a solidified starting goaltender.

Other than that, the Pens won’t be active on March 1st. They’ll be buying some depth in the form of a rental player or two, but they won’t be moving much to attain someone they’ll likely pass on come July 1st (unless they’re replacing Chris Kunitz and/or Matt Cullen– both of whom are pending unrestricted free agents).

Potential assets to trade: F Eric Fehr, D Cameron Gaunce, D Steve Oleksy, G Marc-Andre Fleury

Potential assets to acquire: F Shane Doan (ARI), F Martin Hanzal (ARI), F Radim Vrbata (ARI), G Anders Nilsson (BUF), F Jarome Iginla (COL), F Gabriel Landeskog (COL), D Johnny Oduya (DAL), F Thomas Vanek (DET), G Jaroslav Halak (NYI), F Patrik Berglund (STL), F Scottie Upshall (STL), G Carter Hutton (STL), F Brian Boyle (TB), G Ryan Miller (VAN), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG)

Columbus Blue Jackets Logo3. Columbus Blue Jackets– 37-16-5 (79 points, 58 GP)

The Columbus Blue Jackets are next to impossible to figure out. They went on an insane 16-game winning streak earlier this season and followed it up with a bit of a decline as of late, but it appears as though head coach, John Tortorella, has righted the ship again.

Taking a look at the Blue Jackets roster, there’s a lot of youth and not that much that you’d want to give up (unless a deal that was too good to pass up presented itself, a la the Brandon Saad trade with the Chicago Blackhawks after Chicago’s 2015 Stanley Cup championship). Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen would certainly love to add to his roster without subtracting, if he can. It seems like it would never happen, but the Blue Jackets are buyers on March 1st.

Potential assets to trade: F Matt Calvert, umm, draft picks, I guess…

Potential assets to acquire: F Martin Hanzal (ARI), F Radim Vrbata (ARI), D Michael Stone (ARI), F Matt Duchene (COL), F Jarome Iginla (COL), F Patrick Eaves (DAL), F Patrick Sharp (DAL), D Dennis Seidenberg (NYI), G Jaroslav Halak (NYI), F Patrik Berglund (STL)

New York Rangers Logo4. New York Rangers– 38-19-1 (77 points, 58 GP)- currently the first Wild Card in the Eastern Conference 

The New York Rangers are in a bit of a predicament thanks to the current qualifying format for the Stanley Cup Playoffs (someone should probably fix that– and it’s an easy fix, just go back to the 1-8 seeding).

But for all of the nonsense that is the playoff format, the Rangers really don’t have that much to worry about at the end of the day. They should try to add if they can, but they’re neither huge buyers nor are they sellers on March 1st and well, given how past years have gone, that still doesn’t do too much to help Henrik Lundqvist, but it’s a sensible strategy this season.

While New York’s defense is aging, there really aren’t that many solid options they could utilize in a top-4 position. Although, adding a depth defenseman usually isn’t a bad idea in the long run (to the Stanley Cup Final, that is). The Rangers should be really active in the offseason, if we’re being honest.

Potential assets to trade: F Tanner Glass, D Steven Kampfer, D Kevin Klein

Potential assets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), F Radim Vrbata (ARI), D Kevan Miller (BOS), D Joe Morrow (BOS), D Michael Stone (ARI), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL)

New York Islanders Logo5. New York Islanders– 27-21-10 (64 points, 58 GP)

Something’s in the water in New York, and I’m not just talking about the usual suspect– the Hudson River. No, I’m talking about whatever it is assistant GM– turned interim head coach– Doug Weight has been feeding his players.

The New York Islanders have been on the rise since they looked dead in the water. They’re bound to make some marginal moves on March 1st, but nothing like whatever move they might end up having to make because of the looming pressure of being kicked out of Barclays Center/ wanting out on their own/ the eventual “mutual agreement” that will probably come by 2019.

If they can add without subtracting too much, the Islanders will be looking for as much as they can get to offset some of the awful contracts they signed in the offseason (most notably the Andrew Ladd deal).

Potential assets to trade: F Josh Bailey, F Ryan Strome, D Thomas Hickey, D Dennis Seidenberg, G Jaroslav Halak

Potential assets to acquire: F Radim Vrbata (ARI), F Ryan Spooner (BOS), D Joe Morrow (BOS), F Andrew Desjardins (CHI), F Matt Duchene (COL), F Jiri Hudler (DAL), D Johnny Oduya (DAL), F Thomas Vanek (DET), D Jonas Brodin (MIN), F Curtis Lazar (OTT), F Patrik Berglund (STL), F Scottie Upshall (STL), F Brian Boyle (TB), F Valtteri Filppula (TB), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG)

Philadelphia Flyers Logo6. Philadelphia Flyers– 28-24-7 (63 points, 59 GP)

With the way things work in the new NHL, nobody’s really out of the playoff picture, except for the Colorado Avalanche. The Philadelphia Flyers have a plethora of youth and could be the team that just might be on the verge of making a serious run in another year or two. Until then, they’re a little cap strapped.

But this season it’s a mixed bag at the trade deadline for the Flyers.

They should use the chance to dump some bad contracts on the blue line and do a little retooling with their group of forwards. They have a team that’s built for the future, but they’re lacking the right glue guys currently. Besides, it might do them good to finally commit to a goaltender.

Potential assets to trade: F Boyd Gordon, F Matt Read, F Jordan Weal, D T.J. Brennan, D Andrew MacDonald, D Nick Schultz, D Mark Streit, G Steve Mason

Potential assets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), F Martin Hanzal (ARI), F Radim Vrbata (ARI), D Michael Stone (ARI), G Jaroslav Halak (NYI), F Curtis Lazar (OTT), G Andrew Hammond (OTT), F Patrik Berglund (STL), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), F Ondrej Palat (TB), G Ben Bishop (TB), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG)

New Jersey Devils Logo7. New Jersey Devils– 25-24-10 (60 points, 59 GP)

After acquiring Taylor Hall in the offseason from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Adam Larsson, the New Jersey Devils have found themselves on the outside looking in, despite perhaps making a steal of a trade from the 2016 offseason. Of course, one player does not make up an entire team.

New Jersey took on the contract of Marc Savard’s to help get them to the cap floor and that’ll be coming off the books on July 1st, unless they look to trade his contract to a team that’s selling and selling everything (like the Colorado Avalanche, for example). The Devils are by no means out of the playoff hunt and are likely to be dark horses at the trade deadline this year as buyers who are willing to part with some components in order to land bigger components.

General manager, Ray Shero, is destined to replenish New Jersey’s talent pool a lot sooner rather than later, at least compared to how the previous GM ran the team.

Potential assets to trade: F Jacob Josefson, D Ben Lovejoy, D John Moore, G Keith Kinkaid

Potential assets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), F Radim Vrbata (ARI), D Joe Morrow (BOS), F Matt Duchene (COL), F Jarome Iginla (COL), F Gabriel Landeskog (COL), F Tomas Jurco (DET), F Tomas Plekanec (MTL), G Jaroslav Halak (NYI), F Patrik Berglund (STL), F Scottie Upshall (STL), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG), G Ondrej Pavelec (WPG)

Carolina Hurricanes Logo8. Carolina Hurricanes– 24-23-8 (56 points, 55 GP)

After playing a game of money puck, the Carolina Hurricanes find themselves in dead last in the Metropolitan Division so far this season, despite being nine points out of a wild card spot in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Now, there’s nothing wrong with taking the money puck approach, provided you have the right mix of players and, well, aren’t trying to do so in the most dominant division in the league. Oh, wait.

The Hurricanes are a young team that should be getting better with time, only time will tell. Things haven’t looked so good since the 2009 Eastern Conference Final and especially with the decline in attendance, maybe we’re better off talking about potential cities to relocate to instead of potential transactions to be made by March 1st?

Potential assets to trade: F Jay McClement, F Andrej Nestrasil, F Jeff Skinner, F Viktor Stalberg, F Lee Stempniak, F Derek Ryan, D Justin Faulk

Potential assets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), D Shea Theodore (ANA), F Matt Duchene (COL), F Gabriel Landeskog (COL), F Ryan Strome (NYI), F Brandon Pirri (NYR), F Curtis Lazar (OTT), F Patrik Berglund (STL), F Scottie Upshall (STL)

Realistic Predictions for the 2016-2017 Season

By: Nick Lanciani

Anaheim Ducks

Unknown-1The Anaheim Ducks added Jared Boll in the offseason to help bolster Team USA’s heart and grit rating at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Oh wait. Anaheim also brought back Randy Carlyle as head coach.

So basically it’ll be Throwback Thursday everyday this season for the Ducks, since it’ll be ten years since their 2007 Stanley Cup championship with Carlyle and crew. Why not bring back the maroon and jade uniforms while we’re at it?


Arizona Coyotes

Unknown-3Youth is not just prevalent on the Arizona Coyotes roster this season, but in their front office as well, as 27-year-old, John Chayka, was hired as the youngest GM in NHL history.

Max Domi and Anthony Duclair do all they can to convince Shane Doan to become the next Jaromir Jagr and maybe then we can start talking about a potential Cup run for the Coyotes. A plethora of defensemen fight for six roster spots and are narrowed down throughout the season, Hunger Games style.

Boston Bruins

Unknown-7Big and Bad are Backes. Wait, that’s not it. The Boston Bruins added David Backes, Riley Nash and Dominic Moore to their group of forwards this offseason all while seeming to forget that they still need another top-4 defenseman (let alone an entire defense).

Like most years of Boston sports (okay, with the exception of the last fifteen years), the Bruins will probably narrowly miss the playoffs again, much to the dismay of their hardcore fan base that still goes to every game like it’s their job. Or am I confusing them with the guys on the roster? At least 63 + 37 = 100.

Buffalo Sabres

Unknown-2So the Buffalo Sabres look to do things this year. That’s a thing, I’m pretty sure. Major loss? Chad Johnson left the team via free agency and went to Calgary. Major gains?

They brought in Kyle Okposo and everything else remained pretty much the same, so they should probably be on the outside looking in again, unless they become the new Ottawa Senators (forged by youth and a backup goalie that takes over from February through their early first round playoff exit in April).

All kidding aside, the Sabres remain hopeful. Meanwhile, Rasmus Ristolainen finally got paid (at a discount, none the less— Flo from Progressive would be happy).

Calgary Flames

Unknown-4What did the Calgary Flames do this offseason? They got some goaltending. Brian Elliott was acquired via a trade with St. Louis and Chad Johnson came over from Buffalo in free agency, so that’s two new goalies for a total of about half as many goalies that the Philadelphia Flyers have played in the last twenty years (though Calgary is starting to catch up).

Johnny Gaudreau is still unsigned, so that could be problematic, since he’s like, Calgary’s entire offense. At least, that’s what the fake Kanye West account told me— just kidding, he finally signed the other day. Given the state of the Western Conference, it’s safe to say they won’t be flaming their competition in the standings.

Carolina Hurricanes

Carolina Hurricanes LogoBiggest additions: Lee Stempniak, Viktor Stalberg and Teuvo Teravainen (so basically just Teravainen, if you’re playing along with the rebuild at home). Matt Tennyson was also brought in on the blue line via free agency from San Jose, so there’s that.

Hurricanes fans, take solace in the fact that the Columbus Blue Jackets exist in your division, because at least Carolina won’t finish last with an improved New Jersey Devils team (minus their defense) looking to jump ahead of the Hurricanes in the standings.

Chicago Blackhawks

Unknown-22013, 2015— shoot, this year’s Stanley Cup Final is in an odd numbered year, isn’t it? Well, forget all of the season predictions, congrats to the Chicago Blackhawks. They’ll probably just insert some prospect alongside Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Artemi Panarin, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook or someone and be fine.

I mean, that’s been the formula since 2010 anyway. Win the Cup, trade a bunch of people because of the salary cap over the next offseason or two, win the Cup again and do it all over again. The only problem is, the Blackhawks have got the toughest division, so they’ll probably still make the playoffs, at least.

Colorado Avalanche

Unknown-1The Colorado Avalanche added two Bourques to their team (Gabriel Bourque and Rene Bourque) so they’re obviously hoping to double their efforts of their 2001 Stanley Cup championship with legendary defenseman Ray Bourque. What’s that? They’re not related? Nice try Joe Sakic.

While the Av’s were perfect in the preseason, sadly none of it counted and they’ll start 0-0-0 just like everybody else. New head coach, Jared Bednar, won’t be dismantling any stanchions this year, so that’s good news, glass between the benches at Pepsi Center.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Columbus Blue Jackets LogoZach Werenski made the team, so now they’ll have a defense. Oh, sorry, didn’t you there Ryan Murray, Seth Jones and Jack Johnson. But all kidding aside, these guys just need to stay healthy— I’m looking at you Sergei Bobrovsky.

Their group of forwards kind of have it going on. But sadly, this isn’t the year for the Columbus Blue Jackets, unlike the rest of the teams in Ohio it seems. Also, how it is possible for Werenski, a player from Michigan University, to not get run out of Ohio? I’ll wait.

Dallas Stars

Unknown-2The Dallas Stars have the same goaltending tandem of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi, the same core group of forwards primarily in Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn and an improved defense with the loss of Kris Russell.

Somehow every year, this band of veterans impresses the hockey world by combatting speed and skill with heart and grit (minus some of the grit). But just like last year, they probably still won’t figure it out in the playoffs between their two goaltenders and fail miserably (in the eyes of Stars fans).

Detroit Red Wings

UnknownThe Detroit Red Wings added Steve Ott (grit), Thomas Vanek (heart) and Frans Nielsen (actually, kind of good), this offseason to their group of forwards that doesn’t include Pavel Datsyuk for the first time in like, forever.

Datsyuk was traded to Arizona at the draft after he announced his retirement from the NHL to go play in the KHL back home before ultimately wrapping up his professional hockey career. And with that, so ends the Red Wings playoff appearance streak this season. But at least Petr Mrazek will be their number one goalie, right?

Edmonton Oilers

Unknown-5Rogers Place looks pretty cool. Milan Lucic Bruinsinizes the team. Peter Chiarelli traded Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils for Adam Larsson. And that is all. Just kidding, Chiarelli also traded Nail Yakupov to the St. Louis Blues for practically nothing (so just like the Hall trade).

Connor McDavid was named captain and the team got worse. Kris Russell was added to the defense and Eric Gryba was not re-signed, then PTO’ed, then signed to a new deal with Edmonton, then probably placed on waivers. Sounds like things are business as usual for the Oilers.

Florida Panthers

Florida_Panthers_logo_2016James Reimer signed as the backup goaltender to Roberto Luongo for the Florida Panthers this offseason, so if you’re a fan of the 2013 Toronto Maple Leafs or 2011 Vancouver Canucks, maybe Florida is your team (until games actually matter in the playoffs).

Jason Demers and Keith Yandle were two major additions to the Panthers blue line, while they managed to finagle Jared McCann out of Vancouver in exchange for Erik Gudbranson. So basically, the Panthers are poised to dominate the Atlantic Division once again in the regular season. Can I get a Jaromir Jagr for the Hart Trophy to with it?

Los Angeles Kings

Unknown-3The Los Angeles Kings most recently added Devin Setoguchi to their batch of forwards, so that summarizes everything about their offseason. Props to Setoguchi for making a comeback in the NHL. Shouts to the Kings for having a cool arena by the way. I stopped by there in August.

Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick and Anze Kopitar all won awards last season, so that should have some indication of how they’ll do this season. They’ll probably make the Western Conference Final and have to play the Chicago Blackhawks again, won’t they?

Minnesota Wild

Unknown-2The Minnesota Wild added Eric Staal to their roster this offseason and most recently (and more important than Staal), Teemu Pulkkinen.

Chris Stewart returned to the Wild organization after a trip around the league (or so it seemed) and everything else pretty much remained the same.

So if you’re a Minnesota fan, first, good luck surviving the winter (as usual). Second, nobody knows how the Vikings are doing it, but they’re doing it. And third, the Wild aren’t going to be that great this season, so pick one of the first two options to bandwagon, if you would please.

Montreal Canadiens

Unknown-1The Montreal Canadiens traded P.K. Subban. That is all.

But seriously, how could you, Montreal? Other than that, Alexander Radulov, Andrew Shaw and Shea Weber are all part of the team now, while Carey Price will miss the first game with the flu and Mike Condon got claimed off waivers by Pittsburgh. Looks like the team’s all yours, Al Montoya.

Nashville Predators

UnknownThe Nashville Predators acquired P.K. Subban this offseason. What were the Montreal Canadiens thinking?

The Preds are letting their forwards develop and made their defense significantly better by getting rid of Shea Weber for Subban. Now if only Pekka Rinne would return to vintage Pekka Rinne form, then this could the year for Nashville. Then again, they’re in the same division as Chicago in an odd numbered playoff year, so…

New Jersey Devils

New Jersey Devils LogoThe New Jersey Devils restructured their forwards with the additions of Taylor Hall, Beau Bennett, Vernon Fiddler and P.A. Parenteau, but they still lack a defense (mostly). Brandon Gormley, Ben Lovejoy and Kyle Quincey are notable (somewhat) additions to the blue line in the Garden State.

Andy Greene remains one of the strangest trivia questions when someone asks you “who is the current captain of the Devils?” And Cory Schneider is still a highly underrated goaltender that somehow manages to survive without a team in front of him. But at least New Jersey is gearing up for the underdog of the year status.

New York Islanders

New York Islanders LogoThe New York Islanders added a lot of veteran presence to their noticeably Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum-less organization (yes, I took a shot at Barclays Center, there). Jason Chimera, Andrew Ladd and Dennis Seidenberg are now members of the Islanders and well, at least Seidenberg’s contract is only for a year.

As long as Jaroslav Halak plays like he did at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey (minus the final loss to Canada) and stays healthy, John Tavares and crew could lead this team further in the playoffs than in recent memory. Time may be winding down on their Cup contention clock, since Tavares is looking for an extension and well, everyone else on their roster is getting older.

New York Rangers

New York Rangers LogoIf winning the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes counts for anything than the New York Rangers are winners. But they probably won’t be winners of much this season. Granted, they could make a playoff run (or miss it altogether), the same tune rings true, Henrik Lundqvist cannot be a team on his own.

Josh Jooris and Mika Zibanejad are big name additions to the offense. Okay, so they’re just names added to the roster. Nick Holden is new to the Blueshirts blue line and well, they’re still an aging defense. Best of luck to the youth in the New York, like Vesey, Jesper Fast, Oscar Lindberg, Kevin Hayes and others for getting to play more than one position this year on the same shift.

Ottawa Senators

Unknown-6Chris Kelly is back with the Ottawa Senators this season after playing 11 games last year with the Boston Bruins and recovering from a broken femur. Derick Brassard was acquired from the Rangers in exchange for Mika Zibanejad and Bobby Ryan switched his number from 6 to 9 (get your mind out of the gutter, Internet).

Otherwise, the Senators remain virtually the same. On the outside looking in, but probably raising a few eyebrows for their late season surge. They’re still waiting on their youth, which is at least working better than it is for their counterparts in Ontario, the Toronto Maple Leafs (who, although contrary to popular belief, might actually be better this year).

Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia Flyers LogoThe Philadelphia Flyers already appear to be in midseason form, what with Radko Gudas‘s six-game suspension and their apparent preference for Steve Mason as their number one goalie, as usual.

Boyd Gordon and Dale Weise are additions (though, can you really call them that?) and Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov made the team from training camp (and the last couple of years of drafting), so the Flyers appear to be a middle of the pack team again this year.

Additionally, they’ll face off with the Pittsburgh Penguins in this season’s Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game at Heinz Field on February 25, 2017 as part of the league’s 50th season celebration of the 1967 expansion. So yeah, that’s all I got for Philadelphia.

Pittsburgh Penguins

pittsburgh_penguins_logoThe Pittsburgh Penguins have virtually the same team from Game 6 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final and look to defend their championship title without Sidney Crosby for at least game one of an 82 game regular season schedule.

New goaltender, Mike Condon, could make things interesting when comes time to decide between Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray before the 2017 expansion draft, since he could likely become Murray’s backup.

San Jose Sharks

UnknownJust like the Penguins, the San Jose Sharks roster remains virtually untouched since their loss in Game 6 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, which kind of makes you wonder, did anyone remember that there was an offseason?

Matt Tennyson jettisoned to Carolina (I was dying to juxtaposition those words), where he was now sent down to the Charlotte Checkers. Roman Polak went back to Toronto and honestly, that was probably for the better for San Jose. Aaron Dell is the new backup to Martin Jones and would someone just let Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau win a Cup this year? I mean, if Phil Kessel can, then surely those guys can too.

St. Louis Blues

UnknownThe St. Louis Blues will be consciously uncoupling with Ken Hitchcock at the end of the season in his farewell to coaching tour. Mike Yeo has already been named as his replacement and has begun barking out orders at practice, similar to his meltdown in Minnesota (though I have not confirmed that).

They lost David Backes to free agency, because the salary cap exists and good luck to the front office in St. Louis to try figure that one out in the next few years. Meanwhile they added Nail Yakupov for virtually nothing, though in their defense, they already had their own Yakupov in Magnus Paajarvi on their roster, so maybe this time they can make it work.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Unknown-3Nikita Kucherov and the Tampa Bay Lightning finally agreed to a three year bridge deal extension, so Lightning fans rejoice, your fountain of youth is still intact for now. Steven Stamkos stuck around for eight more years and GM Steve Yzerman can now take the next six months off until the playoffs when he has to start worrying about how far his team will go and what to do with Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy.

The Bolts look like geniuses here, for having developed their players well over the last few seasons and will more than likely dominant the Atlantic Division with their in-state rivals, the Florida Panthers. Sadly, Tampa probably won’t win the Cup because the Blackhawks exist and that whole 2013, 2015, 20??? pattern exists.

Toronto Maple Leafs

UnknownAuston Matthews.

(Colby told me to just write that. I think it works).

 

 

 

 

Vancouver Canucks

UnknownLoui Eriksson joined fellow Swedes, Daniel and Henrik Sedin in Vancouver this offseason. So in other news, Team Sweden, feel free to send the Canucks some of your jerseys, because after looking at the rest of the roster, I’m sure they don’t want to be associated with whatever Vancouver’s front office is doing.

Vancouver added Erik Gudbranson. At the cost of Jared McCann to the Florida Panthers. Actually, from the sound of it, it wasn’t a cost at all. The Canucks hate youths. Millennials ruin everything. Best of luck to you Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom.

Washington Capitals

Washington Capitals LogoThe Washington Capitals acquired Lars Eller this offseason, so that’s good, but they also signed Brett Connolly via free agency (so that’s bad). But let’s be honest, the Capitals will probably make the former 6th overall pick better than he’s ever been. Or at least playing on a line with Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov or Nicklas Backstrom will probably help with that.

So basically, the outlook for Washington is this: they’re a good team, they’ll do well, Braden Holtby is elite and they’ll win a lot. Maybe a Cup run is in their future.

Winnipeg Jets

Unknown-4Patrik Laine was selected 2nd overall at this year’s draft by the Winnipeg Jets, Blake Wheeler was named captain and Winnipeg finally moved on from Ondrej Pavelec (by sending him to Manitoba).

What’s that? Jacob Trouba is still a RFA? He wants to be TRADED? Forget all of the good storylines going for the Jets, the Trouba dilemma overshadows everything especially after Rasmus Ristolainen re-signed with the Sabres and began the end of the stare down between Ristolainen, Hampus Lindholm and Trouba as to which RFA defenseman would make a move first. So Kevin Cheveldayoff, who are you going to trade Trouba to? Asking for a friend. No, but seriously, he doesn’t want to miss playing time.

*Honorable mention* Las Vegas _____ Knights

Honestly, somebody just name the team already. I want to start working on coming up with a uniform in NHL 17’s Franchise Mode for you, Bill Foley.

President’s Trophy Winner

If you’re Canadian, this doesn’t matter. If you’re American, good luck. Oh, you meant the President’s Trophy, as in “the team with the best record at the end of the regular season in the NHL”? Well, probably can’t go wrong with the Washington Capitals for that one, unlike their other Washington counterparts that have marred records.

1st Place in the Atlantic Division at season’s end– Florida Panthers or Tampa Bay Lightning, basically the entire state of Florida

One of the teams in Florida will win the Atlantic Division, that’s really all I know.

1st Place in the Metropolitan Division at season’s end– Pittsburgh Penguins

It’s no cakewalk, but Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury live up to that “two is better than one” mantra (sorry Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss).

1st Place in the Central Division at season’s end– Nashville Predators

It doesn’t really matter who clinches the Central Division this season because they’re still going to lose in the 2nd or 3rd round of the playoffs.

1st Place in the Pacific Division at season’s end– Los Angeles Kings

Winning the division isn’t everything. Just ask the 2015-2016 Anaheim Ducks and the late 2000s/early 2010s San Jose Sharks. Unfortunately what this means for Los Angeles is that they’ll be out in seven games in the first round.

2016 Mock Draft: The Complete First Round

By: Nick Lanciani

 

Unknown-1

Here’s a look at how I think the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft will pan out. Of course, I expect just about every single one of these predictions to be wrong. Likewise, experts and draft rankings may say a player is going to go 11th overall, but there’s always a good chance that player could slip up or down on Draft day, so I’ve tried to take account for that as I see fit.

Let’s be honest, there are a lot of good players, but how often do we see them get drafted in the right order— especially when hindsight is 20/20 (I’m looking at you, 2010 NHL Entry Draft).

Unknown

1) Toronto Maple Leafs–> C Auston Matthews, Zurich (SUI)

If you read my mock draft from last month, you might realize that it seems not much has changed with my top-14 picks. This one should be self-explanatory. Hope is back in Toronto in the form of Auston Matthews. A 6’1”, 210-pound center, Matthews is a two-way player similar in nature to Anze Kopitar in Los Angeles or Patrice Bergeron in Boston. In 36 games with Zurich this season, he had 24-22-46 totals.

Matthews was named the Rising Star Award winner and finished 2nd in voting for the MVP of the National League A in Switzerland. Matthews is the franchise center that the Maple Leafs have been waiting for since the days of Mats Sundin. He led the United States to the bronze with 7-4-11 totals at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Unknown-4

2) Winnipeg Jets–> RW Patrik Laine, Tappara (FIN)

Patrik Laine is the number one choice for number two. You read that right, folks. Laine is one of the next best things for the city of Winnipeg and Jets fans alike. The 6’4”, 206-poung right-winger is a treat to watch and could easily fill the hole left behind by Andrew Ladd’s departure around the trade deadline. We’re talking about the kind of player that could have a bigger year than Blake Wheeler’s already big year. Laine’s size and skill combined with his maturity provides some strength on an increasingly younger and talented Jets roster.

Laine had 10 goals in 18 playoff games with Tappara en route to being named postseason MVP and winning the championship in Liiga (Finland’s top professional league). He had 17-16-33 totals in 46 games during the regular season and led all Liiga rookies in scoring. As well, Laine tied Auston Matthews in goals at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship while helping Finland win gold.

Columbus Blue Jackets Logo

3) Columbus Blue Jackets–> RW Jesse Puljujarvi, Karpat (FIN)

It’d take a pretty sizeable trade to get Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen to give up the 3rd overall pick— and for good reason. Puljujarvi is the next best skater in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft behind Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine. His talent and hockey sense drive his offensive game as one of the better prospects on the wing.

Puljujarvi would easily contribute to the youth movement in Columbus as the organization looks to get back to competitive form with a dominant AHL squad in Lake Erie leading the influx of prospects.

The 6’3”, 203-pound forward had 13-15-28 totals in 50 games played for Karpat in Liiga as a 17-year-old. In addition, Puljujarvi was one point shy of Jaromir Jagr’s record for U-18 players at the World Junior Championship level, having scored 17 points in seven games en route to winning gold with Finland this year at the 2016 IIHF World Juniors.

Unknown-5

4) Edmonton Oilers–> LW Matthew Tkachuk, London (OHL)

Originally, I had Jakob Chychrun pegged at 4th overall as the Draft’s best defenseman, but after seeing a second half of the season fade out from Chychrun, even I am skeptical of what he can become. With that, I still have faith in him (see mu 8th overall pick), but while the Oilers could use a young defenseman (that they won’t let slip away— *cough, cough* Jeff Petry), they’ll be forced to take Matthew Tkachuk instead. Not that that’s a bad thing. He’s a talented forward with lots of grit at 6’1”, 195-pounds.

Tkachuk tied Auston Matthews in scoring for the United States at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship with 11 points and hand 30-77-107 totals in 57 games with the London Knights this season. And, oh yeah, he scored the game winning goal in this year’s Memorial Cup Final for the Knights against Rouyn-Noranda. Tkachuk can also revamp a power play unit, given that 42 of his points this season with London came on the power play.

Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli can’t complain about this pick jumpstarting a quick revitalization in Edmonton with Connor McDavid receiving a skilled, young, winger on his line.

Unknown

5) Vancouver Canucks–> LW Pierre-Luc Dubois, Cape Breton (QMJHL)

I’m not sure if anyone else has noticed it yet, but there’s a dumpster fire in the Canucks management office. All kidding aside, Vancouver has had bad asset management over the last few years. Trading Jared McCann was, well, not a smooth move on Canucks GM Jim Benning’s move. Granted, Erik Gudbranson is a better defenseman than half of Vancouver’s blue line, but that’s not saying much.

Okay, now that trade analysis is out of the way, here’s the hot take on Pierre-Luc Dubois: he’s good. Dubois is a smart and versatile forward that brings a level of flexibility to the Canucks lineup. He’s more than capable of playing alongside Bo Horvat. Dubois stands tall at 6’2”, 201-pounds, but don’t let his size fool you, he’s got great hands and can play on edge. He led the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles with 57 assists and 99 points in 62 games this season and was a plus-40 rating. Dubois also finished the season in the top-six in the QMJHL in goals and points.

Unknown-4

6) Calgary Flames–> C Logan Brown, Windsor (OHL)

Calgary has a youth movement that at times, seems to work very well, and at other times shows exactly the kind of thing you would expect from young players— inexperience. They’ve done a good job of building through the draft, though at times surprising with who they’ve selected. Their primary focus this offseason should be on a solid defenseman, but they’re not going to find the one they’re looking for at 6th overall in the draft (yes, I know Olli Juolevi exists, let me finish).

The Flames are going to have to be one of those teams that just goes with the best available player on the board, given their position, and since Logan Brown is just that. He’s also bigger than most of their defensemen, so there should be no problem with adding size to their offense without addressing their long-term defensemen needs just yet. At 6’6”, 222-pounds, Brown is a skilled center with speed and the ability to handle the puck better than any other. Think of Joe Thornton as a comparable, since Brown is apt to be a playmaker first, goal scorer second.

He had 21 goals and 74 points in 59 games with the Windsor Spitfires this season. He also had 29 points on the power play and won 53% of his faceoffs, so there’s that.

Unknown-3

7) Arizona Coyotes–> D Olli Juolevi, London (OHL)        

Olli Juolevi is one of the best defensemen in this year’s draft. Of course, hindsight is always better than foresight, but for all you Team Chychrun vs. Team Juolevi people, final rankings and second half of their season performance really separates the two from one another. Both are NHL ready, but one is clearly more ready than the other and has a bit more hockey sense to him.

The fact of the matter is that Juolevi fits the Coyotes style and brings an edge to their blue line that Arizona desperately needs, given the uncertainty of who they’ll bring back and for how long with plenty of pending free agents in the desert. While the Keith Yandle deal from the spring of 2015 paid in dividends for the Coyotes with the addition of Anthony Duclair, they still lost a defenseman that they put a lot of time and effort into forging. And Brandon Gormley wasn’t much of a success either, so much so that they sent him to Colorado. There’s plenty of cause to add another defenseman to forge and create some competition for a roster spot next season.

Juolevi comes ready-made at 6’2”, 182-pounds and provides some solidarity should the Coyotes part with Oliver Ekman-Larsson in any fashion in the coming years. Juolevi had nine goals and 42 points for the London Knights this season with a plus-38 rating. He also won gold with Finland at the 2016 World Juniors and transitioned from Finland to the OHL with ease.

Unknown-2

8) Buffalo Sabres–> D Jakob Chychrun, Sarnia (OHL)

Sometimes players fizzle out a little before the draft to only prove everyone wrong when the experts say they’re unsure of how that player will turn out. At least, that’s what I hope is the case for Chychrun. Look, he’s one of the best defensemen in the draft, given the fact that he is definitely a first rounder and years later we could be looking back on this draft saying that Chychrun was the best defenseman from this draft.

The point is this, he’s a 6’2”, 214-pound, two-way defenseman and is sure to fight for a roster spot on the Sabres come this October. While Chychrun ultimately fell in some draft rankings, he is still a cut above many other defensemen in the draft, given his size and familiarity with the North American style of the game. His physicality and awareness brings a solid foundation to Buffalo’s blue line. Chychrun had 11 goals and 49 points in 62 games along with a plus-23 plus/minus rating this season with the Sarnia Sting.

Unknown-1

9) Montreal Canadiens–> RW Alexander Nylander, Mississauga (OHL)

Nylander had four goals, five assists and nine points for the Swedes at the 2016 World Junior Championship and blossomed as a skilled forward this year with the Mississauga Steelheads. He’s built for NHL stardom and could do so on one of the biggest stages in the sport in Montreal. Nylander is the 6’0”, 180-pound younger brother of Toronto Maple Leafs forward, William Nylander, and is bound to jumpstart a Canadiens offense that was streaky at best (aside from being injured) this season. He had 28 goals and 75 points in 57 games in his first OHL season with Mississauga.

He’s a dynamic skater that is more than effective on the power play, notching nine power play goals for the Steelheads. Nylander can separate himself from any other skater on the ice with ease. If the Sabres overlook Jakob Chychrun, there’s a good chance he could go 8th overall, but since they probably won’t look past Chychrun, Nylander is best fit to go to another rival of the Maple Leafs— the Habs. I’ll say it again, he’s going to be picked by a rival of Toronto, but the question is which one?

Unknown-1

10) Colorado Avalanche–> D Mikhail Sergachev, Windsor (OHL) 

In light of all the rumors/actual evidence that the Avalanche are/are not shopping Tyson Barrie, this one seems self-explanatory. Colorado moves a defenseman to then take a defenseman (that they’ll have to start the process all over again with) at the draft. This seems to be a very Colorado move, but stay with me for a moment on this one. Mikhail Sergachev packs a punch— we’re talking Rob Blake style impact, but with an offensively minded side of the game.

Sergachev is a big 6’2”, 208-pound defenseman and was named the best defenseman in the OHL in his first season in North America this season. His two-way presence along the blue line brings enough of an offensive element to his game to satisfy anyone that likes watching someone hit someone along the boards with their size, then start a quick transition the other way (and execute it well). With Sergachev, we’re talking almost like an Erik Karlsson, but with more strength when it comes to playing defense.

He plays with confidence and speed and had 17 goals and 57 points in 67 games with the Windsor Spitfires in his rookie season. Add to that his 31 points on the power play and maybe the Avalanche are ready to take on a young, NHL-ready defenseman that might be able to help them figure out what the heck they are doing. Sergachev is the total package that the Av’s have failed to produce on their own, but desperately want, and brings balance to their youth movement all around.

New Jersey Devils Logo

11) New Jersey Devils–> C Tyson Jost, Penticton (BCHL)

If you’re the Devils and you’re committed to Cory Schneider as one of the league’s best-underrated goaltenders, then you should be working harder than ever to prevent the current turnaround from lasting forever. You owe it to Schneider and his goalie equipment. Okay, rant aside, New Jersey could use younger talent and it might not be a bad idea if it does take them a few years to groom it properly. After all, letting another Zach Parise get away wouldn’t be good.

The fact of the matter is this— New Jersey isn’t going anywhere unless they figure out that they need to build around Adam Larsson, Adam Henrique, Schneider and the like. Yet the Devils seem pretty insistent on going where they want with what they have, which means it wouldn’t be a bad idea to add to their lack of strength down the middle. Ray Shero is a smart general manager knows how to add talent.

Tyson Jost is perhaps one of the best-underrated players available in the draft as a 6’0”, 194-pound center heading to the University of North Dakota next season. Jost could become a cornerstone forward for New Jersey as long as they’re willing to add to their foundation. He had 42 goals and 104 points in 48 games for Penticton this season, with 14 goals on the power play and seven game-winners.

Unknown-6

12) Ottawa Senators–> D Jake Bean, Calgary (WHL)

The likes of another Erik Karlsson in Ottawa wouldn’t be a bad thing considering their addition of the annual butt-end of a pylon joke, Dion Phaneuf this season. Jake Bean is a solid defenseman with a considerable offensive element of his game that with some work, could flourish in the NHL. Plus his name fits the Senators obsession with defenseman with short, four-letter last names, like Cody Ceci.

Bean is a 6’0”, 173-pound offensive defenseman with excellent wheels and smart puck possession. He can make excellent passes and carry his own weight. With proper training, Bean could strengthen up enough to become a force to be reckoning with on the blue line. His stick, body and talent is sure to be a great compliment alongside any of Ottawa’s defenders in the years to come. One more thing to note, Bean led the Western Hockey League defensemen with 24 goals in 68 games in his second full season in the league with the Calgary Hitmen.

Carolina Hurricanes Logo

13) Carolina Hurricanes–> C Clayton Keller, USA U-18 (USHL)

First the Hurricanes made waves by landing Teuvo Teravainen and Bryan Bickell in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks this offseason, next they’re going to make waves by selecting Clayton Keller with the 13th overall pick. Here’s why: despite what everyone tells you about size in hockey, you don’t always need size— you just need skill (and a lot of hard work). Keller is a skillful 5’9”, 168-pound center reminiscent of the likes of Martin St. Louis or Jonathan Drouin. Overlooked, doubted, under recognized, Keller is a smart, tactical, forward.

He led the USA’s U-18 program with 70 assists and 107 points in 62 games this season. As well, Keller recorded four goals and 10 points in seven games at the 2016 IIHF World U-18 Championship en route to a bronze medal. The Hurricanes need to retool down the middle in the post-Eric Staal era and Keller is likely to be their man. He’s committed to Boston University in 2016-2017 and was also selected in the second round (40th overall) of the 2014 OHL Draft by the Windsor Spitfires, proving that he’s got plenty of options for some development before making the NHL jump.

Carolina shouldn’t rush things with him, if they’re committed to the long term approach of success (though the same can’t necessarily be stated for the relocation rumors surrounding the team).

Unknown-7

14) Boston Bruins–> D Charlie McAvoy, Boston University (Hockey-East)

Boston needs a defenseman, so Boston drafts a defenseman they can keep their eyes on throughout his development, as McAvoy is across town at Boston University. Bruins general manager, Don Sweeney, has a lot of tough decisions to make this offseason just as he did last offseason and must look to add depth on the blue line both in the immediate future and down the pipeline.

McAvoy brings an excellent 6’0”, 208-pound frame with excellent defensive awareness. While he’s not NHL ready, a year or two of development looks to pay off in dividends with his 39 blocked shots in 37 games played this season as a freshman at BU. Likewise, McAvoy had three goals and 25 points and was a plus-10 rating in his first year as a Terrier. He had a plus-5 rating with the bronze medal-winning United States at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Under the guidance of some veterans and Boston’s coaching staff, McAvoy could turn into a household name at TD Garden.

Unknown-2

15) Minnesota Wild–> LW Max Jones, London (OHL)

Minnesota has some tough decisions to make this offseason with regards to their plethora of pending free agents, potentially buying out or trading Thomas Vanek and the inquiries they face in the ongoing phone calls about Darcy Kuemper. With four picks in the 2016 Draft, the Wild could be looking to stockpile a few more (and they’ve got assets to move). With Bruce Boudreau at the reigns the Wild should become a contender with the right pieces. The only trouble is finding those pieces between now and then.

An addition that’s needed for Minnesota to surpass their previous playoff failures is found in 6’2”, 203-pound forward, Max Jones. He would bring size and physicality to their lineup along with a skilled stick that scored 28 goals and 52 points in 63 games as a London Knight this season. Barring his brutality (he had amassed 106 penalty minutes and a 12-game suspension in the OHL playoffs), Jones could be a wild enough power forward for the Wild.

Unknown

16) Detroit Red Wings–> D Dante Fabbro, Penticton (BCHL)

The phrase “defense wins championships” has long been synonymous with the Detroit Red Wings. While their offense has improved in age and dynamics, as Henrik Zetterberg, Gustav Nyquist and Riley Sheahan surely cannot do everything; the Red Wings have been a little lackluster on the point in prospects. Actually, it hasn’t been a little— it’s been virtually non-existent with every young defenseman in their system having either faded out or been traded.

The point is, Detroit needs a younger defense sooner rather than later to avoid a situation similar to the *ahem* Boston Bruins or New York Rangers.

Fabbro brings in a solid 6’0”, 189-pound stature that had 14-53-67 totals in 45 games for Penticton this season. The Boston University bound defenseman will need some time to develop, but the Red Wings can take a year or two to work their way with him and align everyone on the same “defense wins championships” page. Of note, Fabbro was named the top defenseman in the British Columbia Hockey League for his efforts this season.

Unknown.png

17) Nashville Predators–> D Logan Stanley, Windsor (OHL)

Replacing Seth Jones isn’t easy— was something I expected to say in twenty years if you asked me three years ago at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, but now everything’s changed since Jones didn’t pan out the way Nashville envisioned how they’d utilize him. Still feeling the effects of Ryan Suter jumping ship (and Shea Weber almost jettisoning the Predators), Nashville goes with Logan Stanley to regain some control of developing their defensemen the way they want to.

At 6’7”, 225-pounds, Stanley packs a punch standing tall and bone crunching-ly strong. Additionally, he skates well and can pair up with just about any defenseman willing to carry the more offensive sides of the game as Stanley fits more of a stay-at-home, shutdown blue liner role. He had 5-12-17 totals and 103 penalty minutes in 64 games with the Spitfires this season and handles speedy forwards with ease, often breaking down oncoming rushes.

Philadelphia Flyers Logo

18) Philadelphia Flyers–> C Michael McLeod, Mississauga (OHL)

The Flyers are in prime position for aligning themselves as playoff contenders for the next few seasons (at least) if they continue to manage their assets and commit themselves to a solid goaltender (looking at you Michal Neuvirth). Philadelphia has a lot of centers, so what’s one more? Likewise, GM Ron Hextall has mentioned that he wants to add size. He should do so, with versatility.

Michael McLeod led Mississauga in shorthanded goals (four) and 21-40-61 totals this season. Combined with his work ethic, McLeod’s 6’2”, 188-pound frame and speed shows durability as a playmaking forward that could develop well on the wing in Philly. While Shayne Gostisbehere holds down the blue line for the Flyers, drafting a smart, gifted offense will help balance the franchise’s talent pool in the coming years.

Overall the Flyers are a few steps away from taking the New York Islanders model into a deeper playoff routine…

New York Islanders Logo

19) New York Islanders–> C Luke Kunin, Wisconsin (BIG 10)

…and speaking of the Islanders…

First, what were the they thinking with that Casey Cizikas extension? Second, they’re going to need someone to step up big time to replace Kyle Okposo, especially with the threat of John Tavares opting to hit the free agent market in 2017— though do you think New York won’t learn anything from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s current situation with Steven Stamkos to put more than enough emphasis on valuing their best franchise player? Enough ranting about the organization overall, more about Luke Kunin.

Kunin is a 5’11”, 193-pound solid center that was named to the Big Ten Conference All-Freshmen team after leading the Wisconsin Badgers with 19 goals (five of them on the power play) and 127 shots on goal in 34 games this season. Again, “solid” is the keyword here. Dependable on special teams and durable in the lineup are other expected qualities from Kunin, especially with some time to develop, he could become one of the better two-way players in the league, emulating the likes of Patrice Bergeron, Jonathan Toews or Anze Kopitar. But again, the other keyword here is development (which he’ll certainly get in his coming years at Wisconsin).

Unknown-3

20) Arizona Coyotes (from New York Rangers)–> LW Riley Tufte, Blaine (HS-MN)

Having already addressed Arizona’s needs, this one is simply one of those “take one of the highly ranked guys, oh and talk about his size being important to the lineup” selections.

Look, with a roster that already has Max Domi and other skilled, young players, looking to create a dynamic mix of skill and toughness in the desert, Riley Tufte is a clear choice for the Coyotes at 20th overall if he’s still available by then. He’s a 6’5”, 211-pound left wing that wins battles along the boards. Tufte also has a heavy shot and had 47 goals and 78 points (with six power play goals) in 25 games en route to winning the 2016 Minnesota Mr. Hockey Award. He also had 10 goals in 27 games with Fargo in the USHL and is committed to the University of Minnesota Duluth next season to add some more strength and development to his game.

In time, he’ll leave opponents howling for mercy in Arizona (I just wanted to make a pun, please appreciate it).

Carolina Hurricanes Logo

21) Carolina Hurricanes (from Los Angeles Kings)–> D Dennis Cholowski, Chilliwack (BCHL)

Some things were said about the Hurricanes and some things remain. Meanwhile, they’ve got some good defensemen coming up the ranks and lots of potential trade bait on the blue line, both in the now and in the future. Sometimes a change of scenery is best for both teams in regards to the lack of development for players like Ryan Murphy. Likewise, the uncertainty of Justin Faulk’s future in Carolina looms overhead.

It only makes sense to make a selection that you intend to groom properly and insert into the lineup down the road. Dennis Cholowski is a 6’0”, 170-pound sturdy defenseman with excellent hockey sense and decent skating ability. He had 12 goals and 40 points in 50 games with Chilliwack this season and knows how to open up enough space for a breakout. With some strength and development at St. Cloud State University, Cholowski could become a solid, underrated, blue liner for Carolina.

Unknown-4

22) Winnipeg Jets (from Chicago Blackhawks)–> LW Kieffer Bellows, USA U-18 (USHL)

Barring a Patrik Laine breakdown, the Winnipeg Jets make out with two solid first round picks in my mock draft.

Kieffer Bellows is just what the Jets need for a pure goal scorer that’ll help the likes of Mark Scheifele and whoever else Winnipeg has down the middle. Bellows scored 50 goals this season with the USA U-18 national development team and is sure to make a sound next season at Boston University. His 12 power play goals and nine game-winning goals and 81 points came in 62 games this season. At 6’0”, 196-pounds he’ll be more than ready to be a durable winger coming down the pipeline in the next few seasons. Oh and he likes to shoot from anywhere, as evidenced by his 50 goals with the NTDP U-18 team.

Florida_Panthers_logo_2016

23) Florida Panthers–> RW Alexander DeBrincat, Erie (OHL)

The Florida Panthers are trending upwards and they appear to be only getting better, what with the Keith Yandle trade and signing as the latest piece to the puzzle and the ageless wonder— excuse me, legend— Jaromir Jagr in great shape.

Alexander DeBrincat brings a lot of skill to the Panthers roster, despite his 5’7”, 163-pound frame (but again, size doesn’t matter when hard work and talent is enough to prove people wrong). DeBrincat may have had his run-ins with trouble on the international Junior stage, but he’s not one to pass up on and cast off as uncoachable or whatever. He anticipates what comes to him with ease and has an impressive release on an accurate shot that played alongside Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome the last two seasons.

Along the way, DeBrincat amassed 102 goals in 128 games with the Erie Otters as perhaps one of the most underrated forwards alongside the likes of McDavid and Strome.

Unknown-1.png

24) Anaheim Ducks–> C Rasmus Asplund, Farjestad (SWE)

After surprising everyone with the way they flapped around the bottom of the standings at the start of this season, the Anaheim Ducks worked their way as far as a disappointing Game 7 loss in Round 1 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs to the Nashville Predators. Then they fired Bruce Boudreau and hired Randy Carlyle as head coach. Apparently they think that every ten years they can win a Cup or something with the same head coach and just the same amount of confusion in the offseason. Where they’re headed nobody knows.

But drafting Rasmus Asplund certainly won’t be a mistake for the Ducks. Asplund’s a 5’10”, 176-pound center that will need some time to develop in order to strengthen up and fully transition to the North American style of the game, but he’s got superb leadership and great competitiveness in his game. The potential for this 4-8-12 total point scorer in 46 games with Farjestad this season to improve as he comes more into his development as a two-way forward is yet to be calculated as to just how far off the charts he could reach. Asplund is one of those well-liked guys you can work with and tailor to your needs.

Think of a lesser known, better kept secret, David Pastrnak type of player on the ice with the potential of being the next Teemu Selanne style leader off the ice. Anaheim fans will surely like that.

Unknown-2.png

25) Dallas Stars–> RW Vitaly Abramov, Gatineau (QMJHL)

The Dallas Stars aren’t looking to do much this offseason besides find better goaltending, if possible, and work on ensuring that Tyler Seguin is fully healed and ready to carry the team on his back alongside Jamie Benn again (slightly warm hot take).

Dare I say it, but drafting Vitaly Abramov could pay off in— stars— for the Stars. The 5’9”, 175-pound winger led the Gatineau Olympiques with 38 goals (with 11 of them on the power play) and 93 points this season en route to being named the QMJHL Rookie of the Year. Abramov is highly competitive and has a quick shot. There’s no need to worry about his transition to the North American game, because he’s already further developed than most for his skill level.

Washington Capitals Logo

26) Washington Capitals–> C German Rubtsov, Team Russia U18 (RUS)

Capping off a President’s Trophy winning season (and their best season in franchise history) with an early second round of the playoffs exit to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins was not something on the Washington Capitals’ list this season. But their plethora of talent isn’t sure to diminish anytime soon.

German Rubtsov is the kind of two-way player that could really excel under Barry Trotz’s guidance and/or alongside Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov— actually pretty much anyone on the Capitals roster. As a 6’2”, 178-pound forward with 26 points in 28 games for Team Russia’s U18 team, Rubtsov displayed flashes of brilliance in his hockey sense and defensive awareness, bringing forth a tremendous two-way element to his game. He’s sure to win some battles in high traffic situations for Washington in the years to come with a little fine seasoning in their system, wherever that may be.

Unknown-3.png

27) Tampa Bay Lightning–> D Lucas Johansen, Kelowna (WHL)

Tampa Bay has a lot on its plate this offseason, between the swirling rumors around trading Ben Bishop, their defeat in the Eastern Conference Finals, oh and the fact that Steven Stamkos could very well be heading to unrestricted free agency and the Lightning will be left without a #1 franchise player if he decides to leave. But hey, sure, let’s look ahead for the organization, why not? What else could possibly go wrong— insert plea for Victor Hedman to tough it out and anyone else worried about what skilled Lightning player will be taken by Las Vegas at next year’s expansion draft.

Enough kidding around, Tampa could use a defenseman that is young and may need a year or two before coming into the league because, well, what else might they need. They’ve got plenty of young forwards, young defensemen (I’m looking at you Slater Koekkoek, okay actually I just wanted to type that name) and a young goalie in Andrei Vasilevskiy; so really, the choice is yours Steve Yzerman and crew. Take Lucas Johansen and you’ve got your hands on a 6’1”, 176-pound younger brother of the Nashville Predators’ Ryan Johansen.

This Johansen can skate well and play at both ends of the rink and is in an organization that has produced Duncan Keith, Shea Weber and Tyson Barrie. That’s some pretty good company to be in and enough reason for Tampa to look to the future of a shut down pair in Lucas Johansen and Hedman.

Unknown.jpeg

28) St. Louis Blues–> C Pascal Laberge, Victoriaville (QMJHL)

David Backes is heading to free agency, Paul Stastny isn’t getting any younger, but at least Vladimir Sobotka may be making his return to the St. Louis Blues lineup next season. As an aside, I’m a huge fan of Sobotka, just throwing it out there. Tight against the salary cap, the Blues may be singing the blues in Ken Hitchcock’s final season as head coach if they can’t find a way to restock their prospect pool and finagle a way to keep high-end talent on their roster. It’s the tragedy of the salary cap era to see a team that’s so good, make it only so far, then have to dismantle nearly everything when they get behind the eight ball a bit against the cap.

With that, Pascal Laberge is a promising center that led the Victoriaville Tigres with 68 points in 56 games this season. He was named MVP of the 2016 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in January, by the way, and is a 6’1”, 172-pound, right-shot that goes to the dirty areas to pick up points and notch goals. His compete level and ability to play the puck along the wall, while winning battles all over the ice, prove he can develop into an all-in-one impact player for St. Louis, like Backes, but perhaps a tad better. It’s time to start thinking long term and begin building down the middle for the Blues.

Unknown-7

29) Boston Bruins (from San Jose Sharks)–> C Tage Thompson, Connecticut (Hockey-East)

Remember everything I said before about the Bruins? Yeah, well, they need a lot of help. Regardless of whatever they’re able to attract this offseason, they’re still quite a ways off from righting the ship unless they can pull off a miracle it seems. But hey, the good news is that they have two first round picks at their dispersal and some talent forming in their pipelines/already with the NHL club in the likes of Frank Vatrano, Colin Miller (who’s a pending RFA) and others.

Tage Thompson works perfectly for them to keep an eye on through his development at UConn. He led the NCAA with 13 power play goals this season and had 14 goals and 32 points in 36 games with the Huskies. The 6’5”, 195-pound forward finished his freshman year with lots of promise and has enough time to continue to develop into a solid, accurate shooting, quick with the hands center that would bring an immense boost to Boston’s power play if all goes according to plan. Thompson will also have to add some strength to match his height and the level of his game, but he’s got some time while Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci hold down the fort on the Bruins top lines.

Unknown-1

30) Anaheim Ducks (from PIT via TOR)–> RW Julien Gauthier, Val-d’Or (QMJHL)

I talked about the Ducks before, so I’ll cut to the chase, especially since you’ve been such a good reader making it all the way to the end of this mock draft. Thanks for that.

Julien Gauthier is a monstrous 6’3”, 225-pound power forward. Obviously I meant that in a good way. While some see him as a second or third rounder, Anaheim sees his potential and grabs him before anyone else can even begin to dream about having him in their lineup in the years to come. His 41-11-57 totals in 54 games for Val-d’Or are impressive enough to be a tactical selection by the Ducks, in light of being the only 2016 NHL Draft-eligible player to play for Canada at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship. Gauthier had two assists in five games played at the 2016 IIHF WJC.

And that does it. That’s all folks. Well, at least for the first round, but I don’t think you want to see me project all seven rounds do you? Thanks for reading. May your favorite team have the best of luck at Friday and Saturday’s NHL Entry Draft. We’ll have a live blog of the first round going and keep you updated on all the trades made, as usual.

Carlson, Beagle and Co. Jump Out to 1-0 Series Lead Against Flyers

By: Nick Lanciani

Washington Capitals LogoBraden Holtby and the Washington Capitals shutout the Philadelphia Flyers, 2-0, in front of a rowdy crowd on home ice at the Verizon Center on Thursday night.

Holtby made 19 saves en route to the shutout victory, while Steve Mason made 29 saves on 31 shots against in the loss.

About midway into the first period, Brooks Orpik went on a string of taking penalties, including an illegal hit to the head of Nick Cousins, which the Flyers were unable to capitalize on. Philadelphia was leading 11-8 in shots on goal after twenty minutes of play, while failing to convert on three power play opportunities.

The second period saw the Capitals go on the power play early in the period as Flyers defenseman, Mark Streit, was sent to the box for holding almost three minutes into the second frame. Washington was unable to convert on the power play. At 8:50 of the second period, Dmitry Orlov was sent to the sin bin for tripping Philadelphia forward, Sam Gagner, putting the Flyers on the power play to no avail.

Philadelphia then took two penalties about two and half minutes apart, as Ryan White served a charging minor at 13:28 and Brandon Manning was sent to the box for delay of game at 16:02 of the second period. 19 seconds into Manning’s penalty the Capitals scored on the power play on a shot from the point by John Carlson. Marcus Johansson and T.J. Oshie picked up assists on what became the game winning goal by Carlson.

By the end of the 2nd period, Washington was outshooting Philadelphia 22-15, limiting the Flyers to 4 shots on goal in the period.

Philadelphia Flyers LogoThe pace of the game picked up for the third period in both intensity and undisciplined play.

After killing a too many men on the ice bench minor, served by Ryan White at 2:30 of the 3rd period, the Philadelphia Flyers were shorthanded once again after Sam Gagner took a 4-minute double minor for high sticking Brooks Orpik 5:28 into the final period. This led to a lenthgy penalty kill, which Steve Mason and the Flyers were able to kill off unharmed.

A little under eight minutes later, Wayne Simmonds and Tom Wilson dropped the gloves and squared off after Wilson boarded Flyers defenseman, Andrew MacDonald. Both Simmonds and Wilson picked up 5-minute major penalties for fighting. About a minute later, Shayne Gostisbehere and Andre Burakovsky had a little shoving match that resulted from an interference call on Gostisbehere and a slashing minor on Burakovsky.

At 16:36 of the third period, Jay Beagle sealed the deal for Washington with a shot that beat Mason and reached the back of the twine with help from Marcus Johansson. Trailing by two goals late in the third, the Flyers pulled Mason for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail. Holtby stood tall in goal and the Capitals pulled off the 2-0 shutout with an additional scrum after the sounding of the horn to end the game.

Jakub Voracek picked up a roughing minor, White received a 10-minute misconduct, while Beagle and Karl Alzner each received roughing minors at 20:00 of the third period.

The Capitals outshot the Flyers 31-19 after 60 minutes of play and also led in hits (29-27) and blocked shots (23-21). Philadelphia had a 31-26 advantage on the faceoff dot and led in giveaways 9-5. Washington was 1/6 on the night on the power play, while the Flyers 0/4.

Washington came into Thursday night as this season’s President’s Trophy winners with the best record in the NHL. This series is the 5th Stanley Cup Playoffs matchup between these two teams and their first matchup since Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal on April 22, 2008. This year also marks the 38th playoff appearance in 48 seasons for Philadelphia and the 26th Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance for Washington in 41 seasons.

Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals split the regular season series with Claude Giroux and the Flyers this season, with 8 of their last 12 meetings having been decided by one goal (until Thursday night). Holtby went into the game with a 48-9-7 record on the regular season and a 2.20 GAA and .922 SV% in 66 games played.

The series shifts to Game 2 on Saturday night in Washington with the home team (the Capitals) in command of a 1-0 series lead at 7:00 PM EST on CNBC. The Flyers might be without the services of Sean Couturier, who suffered a shoulder injury in Game 1, while the Capitals are expected to be in full force on home ice at the Verizon Center.

1st Annual Colby’s Corner Awards

2015 is coming to an end and it’s time for all the awards for this early 2015-2016 season. This Colby’s Corner will be different, as Nick and I will tag team these awards, sharing who we think should win and why.

The Wayne Gretzky Award– Given to the best offensive player

Colby Kephart– Jamie Benn. I choose Jamie Benn because the answer is in the numbers. Mr. Benn is 1st in goals scored with 19 goals, and 2nd in points with 39. Benn is also 5th in assists, but this doesn’t explain what he truly means to this Dallas team. Jamie Benn is the best offensive player of the year.

Nick Lanciani– You’ve got to go with Jamie Benn here, quite simply because he was last year’s Art Ross Trophy winner and is still maintaining a consistent scoring pace. While his counterpart, Tyler Seguin, might have showed signs of slowing down over the last week or so, Benn’s game elevates the level of everyone around him and Seguin will quickly get back into the same rhythm.

Goaltender of the year (sorry Bryz, it’s not you)

CK– Henrik Lundqvist. King Henrik is the best goalie in this early season. He is 1st in save percentage and 3rd in both goals-against-average and wins. Lundqvist’s numbers are similar to Carey Price’s MVP season from last year.

NL– Washington’s Braden Holtby has continued to stake his claim in the short list of elite goaltenders in the world. This season he’s got a 1.95 GAA, .928 SV%, and a 17-4-1 record to boot in 22 games played. We said in our season previews that Washington would be a dominant team and Holtby is a dominant force in front of the net. Speaking of the Force, I’m excited for Star Wars…

If Carey Price wasn’t injured, I’m sure he’d be making a strong case for himself this season as he did last season when he took home the Vezina Trophy and Hart Trophy.

The Bobby Orr Award– Given to the best defensemen of the year

CK– John Klingberg. This young defenseman has proven himself in this season with 30 points thus far, which is crazy. I understand he is on one of the best teams in the league, and plays alongside stars like Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. But he has 5 goals and 25 assists in just 28 games played, which is more than a point a game.

NL– There’s a reason why I picked up Klingberg on my fantasy team, if we’re talking specific aspects of the game. Otherwise, Erik Karlsson is leading defensemen in points with 6-26-32 totals through 29 games played, so really if you want to split this one into “best two-way/offensive defenseman” and “best defenseman” I’d be able to give both of them an award.

Coach of the Year (so far) Award

CK– Lindy Ruff. At this point, you are seeing a trend that I believe Dallas is a top team this year, and this man is a big reason why. He has made many lucrative moves, like deciding who to play with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. It was once Patrick Sharp on the wing, but in recent games it has been Valeri Nichushkin. This kid only had one assist last season but this season has 12 points, proving himself to Mr. Ruff.

NL– Umm, can we talk about what they’re doing in Vancouver, Los Angeles, San Jose, and Ottawa, or should I just go with a cop out and pick Lindy Ruff as well? I’ll tell you who’s not my coach of the year, but I wouldn’t want a stanchion sent my way between the benches… John Tortorella gets a pass for now with regards to “worst” coach of the year.

But if you want me to say who I’d pick as coach of the year right now (again) it’s got to be Ruff. Actually, just make Dallas earn all the front office of the year awards. Well, maybe almost all of them. Washington would definitely be their main competition. Hmm, actually, would Ruff mind sharing our award with Barry Trotz? Asking for a friend.

Best Team of 2015

CJhyiLmKCK– Dallas Stars. No surprise here as I am saying that the Dallas Stars are the best team in the league thus far. They lead the NHL with 44 points and their offense is the best with 98 goals for this season. They also have the most wins the league, with 21 wins in 28 games (that’s only 7 losses!).

 

NL– Well, if the Ottawa Senators get any hotter, I might be picking them soon, but yeah, Dallas or Washington again. No surprise here. Maybe even Montreal, if they can avoid losing nine straight to match their winning streak to start the season. I don’t just want to go with this season’s eventual President’s Trophy winner, so really I’m just trying to add a few more teams to the conversation.

 

Rookie of the year (until Nick jinx’s him)

CK– Artemi Panarin. 9 goals, 19 assists—this kid has to be considered one of the biggest surprises of the season. I may not know how to pronounce his name, but I know he has been great for the Blackhawks this season and will be competing for the NHL rookie of the year award.

NL– I hate picking a “rookie of the year” halfway through, because usually I end up jinxing them, so I guess I’ll have to be careful with this one. Artemi Panarin, bud, I don’t want to ruin your chances, but if I had to pick who I think will take home the Calder Trophy in June, well, I’ve got to go with Max Domi. I just think that in the long run Domi will be able to overcome the 5 points in scoring separation between himself and Panarin as it stands right now.

With that said, if I’m picking one for right now it’s definitely Panarin. No questions asked. Actually, did anybody think of a defenseman? Oh well.

Patrik Stefan’s Team of the Year– Worst team of the year

CK– Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto fans were excited to win the Mike Babcock sweepstakes and had high hopes for this season. They knew the offense would be affected with the Phil Kessel trade, but no one knew it would be this bad. Toronto is struggling, and I feel they will finish near the bottom of the league this season.giphy

 

NL– Any team that’s near the bottom of the standings that starts with a “C” is splitting this award. So Columbus, Carolina and Colorado, congrats! You’re losers! But winners in our hearts.

*Disclaimer: I’m fully aware that things are still dismal in Toronto and possibly Calgary, so we’ll see which one of those Canadian teams is in contention for this award at the end of the regular season. They’ll probably have to do worse than one of the “C” teams mentioned above though.

Biggest surprise of year

CK– Arizona Coyotes. The Arizona Coyotes are the biggest surprise of this season as they are making an interesting push to playoffs. They have been bouncing between being the 3rd division spot or out of the playoffs. Max Domi and Anthony Duclair are having strong rookie seasons, and have surprised both the league and me personally.

NL– Remember how I mentioned Max Domi before, yeah, well that was intentional. I was leading you to the obvious. The Vancouver Canucks and the Tampa Bay Lightning are big surprises this year, with the Canucks currently 2nd in the Pacific Division and well, not in last like I thought they would be after their inactivity in the offseason. I mean, Matt Bartkowski? Really? Then again, it looks like he’s found a home on the blue line defending Johnny Canuck from the opposition.

And Tampa’s currently 6th in the Atlantic Division, albeit a close spread in points, only ten points out of first and two points from a wild card spot, but one would think they would be flexing their muscle this season as they did in their Stanley Cup Final run last spring. If they fall further, they’re definitely the biggest surprise, in my eyes, for all the wrong reasons. Likewise, Jon Cooper would probably deserve some heavy scrutiny, with the whole hysteria surrounding Steven Stamkos’s pending unrestricted free agency possibility.

But if I have to be nice and pick a pleasant surprise, I’m going with either Vancouver- as I already discussed- or Arizona- as Colby already pointed out (and I’m totally hopping on that Domi-Duclair bandwagon by the way).

Colby’s Corner: Rangers success continues after offseason

The New York Rangers were disappointed with their lack of success in the playoffs last year, and knew they were going to face a tougNew York Rangers Logoh off-season with the salary cap issues and players needing new contracts. The Rangers needed to make moves, and they ended up trading Carl Hagelin to the Anaheim Ducks for Emerson Etem and draft picks. Their moves continued as the Rangers then traded Cam Talbot to the Edmonton Oilers for picks in the draft.

The Rangers lost a few more players to free agency, like Matt Hunwick going to Toronto. They experienced another loss when Martin St. Louis, retired after 18 years of professional hockey, one Stanley Cup, three Olympic medals and one Hart Trophy. He finished out his career with the Rangers scoring 22 goals and 38 assists during his 2 seasons combined.

The Rangers went on to resign players like Derek Stepan, Jesper Fast, and J.T. Miller.  They also tried to fill the holes they created with the moves by acquiring Antti Raanta to replace Cam Talbot, and they signed free agents Viktor Stalberg and Jarett Stoll.

Going into the season, many believe the Rangers wouldn’t have the same level of success as they had last year. Obviously, Antti Raanta is not Cam Talbot. When Henrik Lundqvist went down last year, Talbot stepped up and play phenomenally to help lead the Rangers to the franchise’s third Presidents’ Trophy.

However, Raanta has started this season with an excellent performance, winning both of his starts and posting a goals-against-average of 0.50 and a save percentage of .987. Obviously, with the season being so young and the Rangers only having played 12 games, they seem to be continuing their success from last season.

But how is this possible? Viktor Stalberg and Jarrett Stoll aren’t Carl Hagelin, and Emerson Etem has only seen three games this season.

My Opinion

There are two main answers to this question: the defense core and the stepping up of the young role players.

The Rangers arguably have the best D-core in the league, with a solid 6: Marc Staal, Keith Yandle, Dan Boyle, Kevin Klein, Dan Girardi and the captain Ryan McDonagh. All these players have been in the league for so many years and have great experience. If any of these players were on a different team, they would all be considered to be on the top two defense lines. The Rangers’ defenseman and goalies have allowed the fewest goals this season and the six defensemen have 6 goals on the season. They are truly doing it on both ends.

The stepping up of players like Mats Zuccarello, Oscar Lindberg, and others are the reason the offense is continuing to flow in New York. Zuccarello is making up for the lost time in the playoffs last season by storming out of the gates with 7 goals and 2 assists. He might truly be the heart of the Rangers; when he went out last year, the offensive production of the team dropped dramatically.

(Photo: Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports)
(Photo: Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports)

Oscar Lindberg, a rookie, has been one of the biggest surprises of the Rangers this year. He has had a few multi-point games thus far, including a two-goal game in his first few games this season. Lindberg has 6 goals and 3 assists on the season. In the first few games he made an argument for the Calder Trophy, however the success would have to continue all year for him to beat out Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel for this award.

Overall, the success will be there for the Rangers throughout the season if their players stay healthy and they find a way to get the puck in the back of net. (Yes, I know, that’s what every team needs) The defense and goaltending for the Rangers will be there all year long. So it won’t be surprising seeing them in the playoffs again this year.